If you’ve been a professional writer long enough, you have undoubtedly gotten this request: “I have a great … story … memoir … screenplay, I just need someone to flesh it out.” In the same category are copywriting requests from prospective clients that actually entail devising the entire marketing or communications plan.
It’s baffling. But what’s behind it?
I think this writing crisis is the result of cultural changes:
- The teaching of formal language arts skills have fallen out of favor. Thirty years ago, correct spelling was required in middle-school term papers, and learning grammar included structured exercises such as diagramming sentences. I wonder, were those approaches a necessary element in the teaching of advanced rhetorical and critical thinking skills?
- At the same time, professionals and small business owners must write for themselves; “secretaries” aren’t around anymore to perform discreet, unacknowledged editing for style and polish.
- Finally, the “publish or perish” imperative has moved beyond academe: business leaders and self-employed people publish books, and even moderately ambitious job seekers need Web sites.
This certainly creates business for professional copywriters. It also suggests that there are competitive advantages for people in any field who choose to achieve mastery at expressing themselves via the written word.